Hey everyone! Today I’m going to be covering my Rakdos Ob Nixilis, the Adversary + Transmogrify deck in Historic which I recently used to get 2 5-0s and 2 4-1s with in the new constructed events on Arena.
I’ve put up a video on my YouTube channel with a full constructed event’s gameplay if you’re interested in seeing the deck in action.
The thing I really like about this deck is that the Oni-Cult Anvil engine gives the deck the same strengths that the other sacrifice decks in the format has, as well as giving the deck a combo angle of attack through Transmogrify which is really strong for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it makes the deck difficult to interact with as the answers the opponent needs for the sacrifice part of the deck is very different to the answers they need to interact with Transmogrify and Serra's Emissary. Transmogrify also goes a long way to solve one of the biggest problems the sacrifice decks has and that is that they usually take a long time to close games out which makes them naturally weak to both combo and control. Not only does cheating Serra's Emissary into play shut off damage-based combos like Greasefang, Okiba Boss + Parhelion II, but the 7/7 flying body also closes the game out a lot faster which helps a lot against control and combo which are typically sacrifice’s worst matchups.
The addition of Ob Nixilis, the Adversary from Streets of New Capenna also helps to further improve the control matchup which was probably the toughest matchup for sacrifice due to cards like Farewell and Divine Purge, both of which Ob Nixilis, the Adversary dodges. Hidetsugu Consumes All is another card that was being used by the Arcanist and Phoenix decks (which are both typically favourable matchups for sacrifice) to make the matchup more favourable for them after sideboard and this deck deosn’t really care about that card as it will only kill Anvil tokens and our 1 mana artifacts, most of which draw a card when they’re destroyed anyway.
Finally, this deck doesn’t care about graveyard hate at all either which is a big deal considering how prevalent that is in the format right now. So in general, this build feels like it helps improve the bad matchups for sacrifice while also making some already decent matchups even better, as cheating Serra's Emissary into play makes it even more difficult for a deck like Auras or Izzet Phoenix to win.
The idea with Transmogrify is that you use it to target your own creature tokens and since Serra's Emissary is the only actual creature in the deck, it will always put a Serra's Emissary into play which is an incredibly powerful creature that can often win the game on its own. You can create creature tokens to target with Transmogrify off Oni-Cult Anvil, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, Den of the Bugbear, and Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance.
You then choose a card type when Serra's Emissary enters the battlefield (eg. creature, instant, planeswalker, artifact etc). Creature is often the best card type to name as it prevents you and your creatures from taking any damage from the opponent’s creatures (which can often lock certain aggressive decks out from winning entirely) as well as preventing the opponent’s creatures from blocking any of yours which enables you to close the game out very quickly.
However, if you’re not under immediate pressure from creatures, you have a way to make a second Serra's Emissary, or you’re against a deck that isn’t running many creatures, then it’s often better to name the type of interaction you think the opponent is likely to have (usually instant, sorcery or planeswalker). I’ll be going over which card types are usually best to name in each matchup later in the sideboard guide section.
Serra's Emissary is particularly good in the format right now especially game 1 since most decks aren’t running many maindeck ways to kill it. Certain decks will have access to a variety of removal across different card types post-sideboard so there will be matchups like Golgari Food, Five-Color Niv-Mizzet and Azorius Control where Serra's Emissary isn’t a reliable way to win games 2 and 3 which is why I have a couple of different creatures to swap in for Serra's Emissary in games 2 and 3, more on those later!
The idea here with Oni-Cult Anvil is to produce a steady stream of 1/1 tokens (which are useful at both pressuring the slower decks and helping block to stabilise against the aggressive decks) as well as being able to drain the opponent for 1 repeatedly which gives the deck good reach against decks that don’t have great access to lifegain.
The main enablers to get Oni-Cult Anvil going are Implement of Combustion and Terrarion. These are both cards that you ideally want to play on turn 1 followed by a turn 2 Oni-Cult Anvil. You can then sacrifice either of them to Oni-Cult Anvil to drain the opponent for 1, make a 1/1, and then you’ll also draw a card off the Implement of Combustion or Terrarion‘s own ability so they immediately replace themself.
The nice thing about Oni-Cult Anvil is that you get a 1/1 token whenever an artifact leaves the battlefield during your turn so you don’t need to activate the Anvil itself to get the token. You’ll often have artifacts leave the battlefield as part of your gameplan anyway eg. sacrificing a treasure token to produce mana, sacrificing Soul-Guide Lantern to exile the graveyard or draw a card or exiling one of your Anvil tokens to Transmogrify so Oni-Cult Anvil often just works like a Bitterblossom that can also drain the opponent.
Deadly Dispute works really nicely alongside Oni-Cult Anvil as you can sacrifice your artifacts to Deadly Dispute in order to trigger Anvil to make a 1/1 while also generating card advantage and providing a treasure which you can use to ramp and could also use to trigger Oni-Cult Anvil again the following turn. It’s also great at gaining additional value off Implement of Combustion or Terrarion when you don’t have Oni-Cult Anvil as you can sacrifice them to Deadly Dispute to draw 3 cards and produce a treasure token.
This is probably the strongest card from Streets of New Capenna and this list has felt like the best home for it in Historic. Firstly, the casualty ability works nicely as a payoff for creating creature tokens off cards like Oni-Cult Anvil and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker as you can sacrifice them to then put two planeswalkers into play which is an insane rate for 3 mana.
The +1 ability is really nice in this shell as you’ll often be dealing a bunch of chip damage to the opponent off Oni-Cult Anvil so it will pretty quickly get to the point where the opponent will have to start discarding cards instead of taking damage if they don’t have good ways to gain life. If the opponent doesn’t have a great way to pressure Ob Nixilis, the Adversary or gain life then this ability can run away with the game and often win on its own, especially against a deck like control.
The -2 ability to create a token is also really nice at being another source of tokens we can use to target Transmogrify with as well as protecting itself against opposing creatures. The ultimate very rarely comes up but the threat of it means the opponent can’t simply ignore Ob Nixilis, the Adversary if it’s plussing every turn.
Similar to Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, this is another generically powerful card that also has a lot of synergies with our gameplan. The 2/2 off the first chapter is another token that we can use to target with Transmogrify and the treasure tokens it creates can be used to both ramp and trigger Oni-Cult Anvil.
The second chapter is great at helping us to dig to our key cards like Oni-Cult Anvil, Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, and Transmogrify as well as ensuring we keeping hitting lands and giving us a way to get rid of any unwanted Serra's Emissary that you might have drawn.
The Reflection of Kiki-Jiki on the third chapter is also another creature you can target Transmogrify with to cheat Serra's Emissary into play whilst also enabling you to copy Serra's Emissary assuming you haven’t named creature or enchantment as your card type (otherwise you won’t be able to target Serra's Emissary with Reflection of Kiki-Jiki since it’s an enchantment creature).
This most commonly comes up if you name a type of interaction (eg. instant vs Izzet Phoenix or planeswalker vs control) which will then allow you to make a second copy naming a different card type at instant speed either to fizzle a removal spell during the opponent’s turn or to attack in with haste during your turn.
The Other Cards:
Soul-Guide Lantern provides maindeck graveyard hate which is particularly nice right now as most decks that are interacting with the graveyard tend to be much heavier on their graveyard synergies game 1 which means a card like Soul-Guide Lantern will be a lot more valuable.
It’s especially important against Izzet Phoenix as the only maindeck way they typically have of killing Serra's Emissary is Unholy Heat with delirium plus another red removal spell and being able to turn off delirium at instant speed with Soul-Guide Lantern will almost always prevent them from killing Serra's Emissary game 1.
It can also be cycled away in matchups and where the graveyard hate isn’t relevant and synergises nicely with Oni-Cult Anvil as you can use it to produce a 1/1 token if you sacrifice the Soul-Guide Lantern during your turn.
Fatal Push is a really efficient removal spell that can kill most of the important creatures in the format. Triggering revolt is also really easy in this list as you can sacrifice all of your artifacts at instant speed which means you can very consistently kill 3 and 4 mana creatures with it.
I feel like single-target removal is much more important than mass removal right now due to the prevalance of small creatures that need to be killed quickly or they snowball like Kor Spiritdancer, Dreadhorde Arcanist and Sprite Dragon which is why I’m running Fatal Push in the main over something like The Meathook Massacre.
The creaturelands are very important at forcing through additional damage when you flood out as well as pressuring planeswalkers. Hive of the Eye Tyrant working as additional graveyard is nice especially against cards like Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger and Den of the Bugbear producing tokens gives us another way to ensure we always have a target for Transmogrify.
Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance and Takenuma, Abandoned Mire are both essentially free as one ofs. Takenuma, Abandoned Mire can be used to rebuy Ob Nixilis, the Adversary and Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance is another source of creature tokens for Transmogrify and the casualty on Ob Nixilis, the Adversary.
Unfortunately Castle Locthwain will be entering tapped a fair amount of the time since we’re only running 4 Blood Crypt and 2 Swamp but it’s such a strong card at helping you pull ahead in situations where both you and your opponent are topdecking that it’s absolutely felt worth it.
Finally, we’ve got the 12 good black/red dual lands and a couple of each basic to round the deck out.
3 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger: This is here as a replacement for Serra's Emissary against decks that don’t kill fast and also don’t tend to run removal that can kill it like Golgari Food and Arcanist. Post sideboard, these sorts of decks will have access to a variety of removal across card types (eg. Bone Shards and Mortality Spear in Golgari Food, Bedevil and Bloodchief's Thirst in Arcanist) so it becomes a lot harder to ride Serra's Emissary to victory.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is almost impossible for these decks to interact with since basically all of their removal is destruction based and you can win by attacking with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger a few times to exile their library and win by decking out.
3 End-Raze Forerunners: Unfortunately Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger isn’t good enough to win against a deck like Azorius control since they run high numbers of both Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and The Wandering Emperor which can both answer it. Therefore, I wanted to run a seperate creature just for the control decks.
End-Raze Forerunners might initially look like an odd choice but I’ve really liked it over something like Nezahal, Primal Tide as it can immediately kill planeswalkers, even through tokens from The Wandering Emperor and Shark Typhoon because of trample, and it can’t be exiled by The Wandering Emperor because of vigilance.
I tried Nezahal, Primal Tide and other similar cards but just found them to not be good enough if the opponent already has planeswalkers on board since they can simply immediately tuck it with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, it struggles to actually kill planeswalkers as control can fairly easily produce tokens to block, and the draw ability also gets shut down by Narset, Parter of Veils whereas End-Raze Forerunners is great in all of these situations and can win from behind.
Additionally, if the opponent doesn’t already have planeswalkers in play, you can often kill them out of nowhere with End-Raze Forerunners if you have some other tokens in play as it will also give them +2/+2, vigilance and trample.
4 Thoughtseize: This is nice as extra disruption against both combo decks and slower decks like control.
3 The Meathook Massacre: This is here for helping to stabilise against aggressive decks or decks where you want additional lifegain. It’s also nice against other sacrifice decks at ensuring you don’t get drained out by opposing Oni-Cult Anvil and Cat/Oven.
Best of 1
The only change I would make for best of 1 is replacing 2 copies of Implement of Combustion with an extra 2 copies of Soul-Guide Lantern. Best of 1 has a lot of all-in combo decks, the vast majority of which are heavily based around the graveyard like Greasefang, Okiba Boss and Dragonstorm so having extra Soul-Guide Lantern really improves those matchups as well as synergising with Oni-Cult Anvil even in matchups where you don’t need graveyard hate.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
Ob Nixilis, the Adversary can be actively bad in this matchup as it can work as a discard outlet for their Arclight Phoenix or help them set up delirium. It’s also fairly easy for them to pressure planeswalkers so we cut Ob Nixilis, the Adversary and bring in Soul-Guide Lantern as additional graveyard hate to shut off Arclight Phoenix and delirium and The Meathook Massacre as additional removal.
Serra's Emissary can pull a lot of weight in this matchup as creatures are their only real source of damage. Game 1 you typically want to name creature on Serra's Emissary if they have any threatening creatures in play but if you’re not under pressure and you have either a second Transmogrify or Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, you can name instant first to shut off Unholy Heat and then follow it up with a second one naming creature.
Games 2 and 3 it’s typically more risky naming creature first as some lists will be boarding in cards like Brazen Borrower or Fading Hope so naming instant first if you can afford to is important but there will obviously be some situatios where you can’t afford to and will need to name creature to survive. Serra's Emissary naming creature alongside Soul-Guide Lantern will often be enough to win the game on its own as you can keep their Unholy Heat dealing 2 damage which makes it really difficult for them to kill Serra's Emissary.
Outside of Serra's Emissary, you can also win pretty handily by using removal on their creatures and draining them out with Oni-Cult Anvil and its tokens as they don’t have any ways to gain life. Typically you’ll want to try and use your removal on their non-Phoenix threats and use Soul-Guide Lantern to shut off their Arclight Phoenix wherever possible.
Also be wary of cards like Spell Pierce, Aether Gust and Mystical Dispute when trying to go for something like Transmogrify after sideboard, especially if they’re regularly leaving mana open during your turn.
|+3 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger||-3 Serra's Emissary|
|+3 The Meathook Massacre||-2 Soul-Guide Lantern|
|-1 Implement of Combustion|
This is a matchup where Serra's Emissary isn’t as reliable games 2 and 3 as they’ll have access to more cards like Bone Shards and Mortality Spear so it’s difficult to know what card type to name. They don’t run any answers to Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and are usually pretty slow to kill you so you can often win by exiling their library by attacking with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger a few times. Be wary of instant speed removal like Fatal Push when you’re thinking about going for Transmogrify though.
Soul-Guide Lantern isn’t great in this matchup as they can easily play around it by producing extra food to stop you exiling their Cauldron Familiar so we cut that and an Implement of Combustion to bring in The Meathook Massacre which massively slows down their ability to drain you out with Cat/Oven and their own The Meathook Massacre.
Game 1 you’ll normally want to name creature on Serra's Emissary as they will usually only be running a single copy of Bone Shards or Mortality Spear and you’ll usually want to minimise any damage you take from creatures as early as possible as the Cat/Oven loop will still drain you every turn even if you name creature on Serra's Emissary.
This is probably the matchup where Serra's Emissary is at it’s weakest so we replace it with End-Raze Forerunners which we can use to kill planeswalkers when we’re behind or force through considerable damage on an empty board. Thoughtseize is great here at clearing the way for our plays and getting rid of planeswalkers like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and getting Oni-Cult Anvil or Ob Nixilis, the Adversary in play is very important as they can run away with the game and are difficult for the opponent to interact with.
The creature lands are also very important in this matchup at being able to pick off planeswalkers as well as force through damage so be careful animating them into March of Otherworldly Light if you can avoid it. Additionally, Implement of Combustion is actually fairly useful here at being able to destroy planeswalkers at 1 loyalty which is very nice especially against Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Narset, Parter of Veils so think twice before cracking it if you don’t need to.
Game 1 you’ll typically want to name planeswalker first on Serra's Emissary and then instant second if you can get another one in play. I usually name planeswalker first as they have a higher density of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and The Wandering Emperor as opposed to instant-speed removal that can kill it easily like Fateful Absence.
This matchup is all about either killing all of their creatures or getting a Serra's Emissary into play naming creature. If you have more answers than they have creatures then their deck basically does nothing so having interaction like Fatal Push and Thoughtseize are really important to that end.
They’ll also typically have no way to beat a Serra's Emissary other than a small number of Heliod's Punishment so if you can get one Serra's Emissary into play naming creature and then another one naming enchantment, that’s going to completely lock them out of the game. Since this matchup is so warped around interaction and Serra's Emissary you should almost always mulligan any hand that doesn’t contain either Fatal Push, Thoughtseize or Transmogrify.
Be very wary of Spell Pierce both pre and post sideboard especially when you’re casting Transmogrify as having that countered can single-handedly lose you the game in some situations so play around that whenever possible.
Similar to Golgari Food, this is another matchup where they’ll tend to have access to a wider variety of card types that can kill Serra's Emissary after sideboard so we replace it with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. All of their removal is destruction based which means they won’t be able to answer an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger once it’s in play so we can often win by exiling their library by attacking a few times with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Again, it’s very important to be wary of instant-speed removal like Fatal Push and Unholy Heat when you’re going for Transmogrify.
Arcanist builds can also vary pretty heavily so if it looks like the opponent is playing a more graveyard-heavy build with multiple Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger for example, then you might want to bring in additional Soul-Guide Lantern over some number of Terrarion.
Game 1 you’ll usually want to name creature on Serra's Emissary first unless they don’t have many creatures in play and you’ve seen a Bloodchief's Thirst (in which case it’s probably safer to name sorcery). Most builds I’ve seen tend to be running low numbers of cards like Bedevil and Bloodchief's Thirst though so creature is usually a safe bet.
This is another matchup where Serra's Emissary pulls a lot of weight as they’ll typically only have Moonsnare Prototype and Otawara, Soaring City as answers for it. Usually, you’ll want to name creature first and then artifact but you could name artifact first if you’re worried about Moonsnare Prototype and they don’t have a non-artifact creature like Ingenious Smith or a Nettlecyst token in play.
Metallic Rebuke is the most important card to play around in this matchup as having a Transmogrify countered can lose you the game. This is one of the reasons to bring in Thoughtseize to try and clear the way for Transmogrify to resolve as well as getting rid of Shadowspear which is probably the most difficult card to beat if you’re trying to win with Oni-Cult Anvil instead of Serra's Emissary.
|+4 Thoughtseize||-2 Soul-Guide Lantern|
|+3 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger||-2 Implement of Combustion|
|-3 Serra's Emissary|
We’re replacing Serra's Emissary with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger here as Serra's Emissary isn’t able to beat the Nine Lives + Solemnity lock but Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger still can by exiling their library. Thoughtseize is important at keeping them off their key cards like Sterling Grove, Sythis, Harvest's Hand and Enchantress's Presence and Fatal Push is important to kill their creatures like Sythis, Harvest's Hand and Sanctum Weaver before they start to snowball advantage.
Game 1 you’ll usually want to name enchantment first and then creature with Serra's Emissary unless you’re under immediate threat from creatures as they can fairly easily tutor for Banishing Light or Borrowed Time off Sterling Grove to answer it otherwise.
Selesnya Heliod Combo:
Serra's Emissary is really strong in this matchup, especially game 1 as they usually won’t have any answers for it naming creature. After sideboard you usually want to name creature first and instant second but it can be tricky to know what to name for the second type as some builds will be running Reprobation and I’ve seen other builds running Declaration in Stone too.
The general gameplan here is to try and keep them off their lifegain enablers wherever possible as that will stop their Trelasarra, Moon Dancer and Voice of the Blessed from growing as well as keeping them off the combo. Fatal Push and Thoughtseize are particularly good to that end. Ob Nixilis, the Adversary loses a lot of value in this matchup as they can gain so much life so they’ll be able to repeatedly take damage off the +1 ability.
|+3 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger||-3 Serra's Emissary|
|+4 Thoughtseize||-2 Soul-Guide Lantern|
|-1 Implement of Combustion|
This is a matchup where Serra's Emissary isn’t great as they have a really big variety of card types that can kill it even game 1. If you’re not under immediate threat from creatures then it’s usually best to name instant and then sorcery as they tend to run higher numbers of Vanishing Verse than Maelstrom Pulse but it’s very much a lottery and you can get punished for guessing wrong.
Post sideboard they will usually struggle to answer Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger – the only answers I’ve seen so far are Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Teferi, Time Raveler, both of which are typically run in low numbers so you can often win by exiling their library with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Thoughtseize is very important at clearing the way for our plays and I like keeping in 4 Fatal Push to deal with Territorial Kavu as that can be hard to deal with otherwise.
Embercleave Aggro (Mono Red / Gruul):
The general gameplan here is to either keep them off Embercleave using your removal like Fatal Push and The Meathook Massacre, or get Serra's Emissary into play naming creature. The Meathook Massacre is particularly brutal if you can sweep their whole board so holding onto treasures for that can be useful.
Also be aware that the stomp part of Bonecrusher Giant will shut off the protection that Serra's Emissary provides for the turn so you haven’t completely locked out the game if you have Serra's Emissary in play naming creature – it can often by important to hold back tokens in order to chump block to play around Bonecrusher Giant in these scenarios.
Tips & Tricks
- You can hardcast Serra's Emissary with Terrarion and a treasure since you can sacrifice Terrarion to produce two white mana.
- Don’t forget you can sacrifice Oni-Cult Anvil to its own ability during your turn to produce a 1/1 token – this is particularly useful if you have Transmogrify and no other ways to make a token.
- If the opponent is below 7 life, you can sacrifice Serra's Emissary to the casualty on Ob Nixilis, the Adversary which will allow you to ultimate straight away and you can target your opponent for the ultimate to deal 7 damage (shouts to Rosemary102 on YouTube for pointing this out).
- The turn you play an Ob Nixilis, the Adversary with casualty, if you plan on making a token with one and ticking up the other, always make sure to make the token first as you’ll gain an additional 2 life off the +1 since you now have a devil in play.
- Don’t forget you can use Transmogrify on your opponent’s creatures in a pinch if you really need to remove a specific creature.
- Even though you can trigger the Anvil to get a 1/1 without activating it’s ability, it can often be correct to sac your tokens to drain for 1 at the end of your opponent’s turn anyway if you’re not able to attack with them or you don’t need the tokens to chump block. The drain ability on Anvil is only once per turn so you don’t want to be left in a scenario where you have an army of 1/1s that can’t do much and you would have been able to kill the opponent if you’d been draining for 1 each turn instead.
- If you have 2 Reflection of Kiki-Jiki in play and you can activate at least one of them, you can repeatedly make copies of the other Reflection. Generally this is best to do during the opponent’s end step so you get to keep the tokens during your turn.
This deck has been so much fun to play and is definitely one of the most powerful decks I’ve played in Historic recently so I’d definitely recommend giving it a try if you’re a fan of either sacrifice or combo strategies.
Thanks a lot for reading!